BY FREEMAN MAKOPA
GOVERNMENT has capitalised two agricultural leasing companies with equipment worth over US$22 million to hire out mechanisation services to farmers in its bid to modernise the sector.
Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector performance has in the past been severely hampered by a lack of agricultural equipment due to financing constraints, high input costs and recurrent droughts.
In an interview with NewsDay Business last week, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary, John Basera said the government had initiated several mechanisation programmes in its bid to modernise the sector.
“The ministry is seized with speeding up mechanisation programmes to modernise the sector by increasing the tillage and combining capacities by approximately 300 000 hectares and 200 000 hectares, respectively,” he said.
“Government created two agricultural equipment leasing companies namely AFC Leasing Company and an agricultural leasing vehicle through ARDA (Agricultural Rural Development Authority). These institutions were capitalised with equipment worth over US$22 million to hire out mechanisation services to farmers at affordable rates.”
Basera said the sector aimed to have mechanisation services be readily available and affordable to farmers.
Experts, however, believe that Zimbabwe’s mechanisation model, which is embracing both State and market-led initiatives, needs a supportive environment to thrive, especially regarding knowledge and skills development.
This comes as most farmers regularly face machinery breakdowns due to lack of knowledge on machine operation and maintenance.
Previously, the Zimbabwe government signed mechanisation deals with manufacturers in Brazil, Belarus, China and India, who exported farming machinery at subsidised prices.
With the Zimbabwean government as guarantor, equipment was bought through concessional loans that sought to promote South-South co-operation. However, forex shortages stalled plans announced in 2018 to establish a machinery assembly plant by India’s Mahindra.
“The sector aims to get to a point where a farmer does not necessarily need to own a piece of sophisticated and expensive equipment. The services must be readily and affordably available,” Basera said.
“Several flagship mechanisation programmes, such as the Belarus Phase 1, Belarus Phase 2, the John Deere Facility and the Bain/BancABC mechanisation facility were consummated. These programmes are being administered through banks who on-lend equipment to farmers on an end-user-pay basis over tenure periods ranging from two to five years.”
The government has also implemented the National Enhanced Agricultural Productivity Scheme (Neaps) which enhanced an increase in wheat and maize output.
Neaps supports and contracts A1 and A2 farmers to grow strategic commercial crops such as maize, wheat, soyabean and traditional grains.
“During the 2020/21 season the Neaps contributed over 30% to the total maize output,” Basera said.
“The flagship programme also saw wheat production increasing from about 100 000 tonner in 2019 to 212 000 tonnes in 2020 to over 330 000 tonnes in 2021 against a national annual requirement of over 360 000 tonnes.”
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